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Dozen delights for nomadic Norwich Christian

Norwich Quaker and magistrate, John Myhill, has just spent a very interesting three months as a nomadic Christian visiting a dozen places of worship across the city and further afield. Here he recounts his wide-ranging ecumenical journey and what he discovered.

 


 

At the end of 2010 I felt myself led to go on “walkabout”, to forsake my comfortable seat in the silent Quaker Circle and spend my Sundays experiencing more challenging forms of worship.  I did not go as don Quixote to joust with windmills (although if the Spirit moves me I am quite happy to stand on a pew as George Fox did, and heckle the preacher.) 

I did not even go as a “secret shopper”, although my report on my individual services may surprise some regular worshippers).  No, I went to learn the advantages of the different forms of service, the different structures, rituals and responses to the movings of the Spirit. This then is my first three months as a Nomadic Christian:

 

  1. St. Peter Mancroft, Church of England, with the excellent Janet Wyer preaching.  What better Bishop could the Anglican Communion require than this motherly source of empathy and compassion; who can breathe life into these ancient rituals.
  2. Grace Fellowship, North Norwich Free church with a Pentecostal background, now has strong mission focus both in Norwich and India.  Here I found a strong expectation of personal transformation.  God works by sudden change, to stand still is to stagnate, and we must cut ourselves off from corruption in all its forms.  God can only act if we listen and obey.  All messages taken from scripture.  I could imagine George Fox preaching with similar freshness and vigour.  We sang for over an hour, with prayers and sermon taking another hour.  A ministry team and guitarists, with the whole worshipping community involved.
  3. United Reformed Church, princes Street with a dynamic sermon from the mission to Seafarers.  Did you know that ten ships sink each year, a ship with 15,000 containers has only 14 crew and 90% of all goods travel by sea!  We learnt about the poor pay and conditions on many ships.  The preacher was a Baptist working for the Church of England.  The warden is a Methodist.  A great ecumenical occasion, where I felt very much at home.
  4. Salvation Army, St Giles, Norwich,. Lovely music, great dedication to good works, but the uniforms do make me feel like an outsider.  It was very pleasant way to spend the morning and everyone made me most welcome.
  5. The Ecumenical Service of Transforming Norwich at the Baptists’ Witard Road where the Anglican Dean spoke about the importance of silence and the difficulty that most churches have in using silence.  Perhaps next year I should preach about the value of ritual and sacraments?  But first I have a lot to learn.  Norwich Youth for Christ and many contributors made this a memorable evening (as reported elsewhere).
  6. City Church meeting in the URC church hall Wymondham.  This church chose me, when a member of their healing ministry offered me healing by Wymondham market cross.  I said I had a lot of back pain, was prayed over.  No back pain since.  Their message is very much that god wants us to be whole.  I accepted further healing in this service and felt the same wonderful glow of instant health in (my flesh is willing by my spirit needs healing).  This is a vibrant family congregation where success in this life, rather than salvation in the next is the agenda and we help others by giving them confidence in themselves.
  7. Chaplefield Road Methodists.  Lots of children and families and Congolese.  A three legged race with some of the children showed how hard it is to keep in step with Jesus.  Preacher Janice Norman is a primary school teacher during the week and spoke with a clear understanding of parents and children.  1Corinthians 3, gave a clear ecumenical message.
  8. Roman Catholic Cathedral.  Probably the strangest experience for anyone brought up in the Protestant tradition.  The liturgy is quite as modernised as the Church of England, but there is so little participation from the congregation of 300.  The service appears to take place at the altar and the audience watch and listen, stand and sit, but few speak or sing.  James Walsh preached a timeless sermon direct and appealing as Jesus did.
  9. Surrey Street Chapel the only nineteenth century independent church in Norwich.  Bible teaching in the 30 minute sermon by Tom Chapman, on “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.  There was nothing controversial here that could upset any other group of Christians.  A straightforward preaching of God’s word.  The congregation of 200, all ages, with a fair number of Chinese students, took a full part in the service, with the support of some excellent musicians.
  10. A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich. Probably the nearest to a silent Quaker Meeting: a gathering of some thirty people, mainly silent, all awaiting the call: no singing, no sermon.  The only difference from a Quaker Meeting is that we were all called! I will remember those wonderful doctors and nurses, when I am enjoying my Sunday worship.
  11. Some forty soul of St. Stephen’s church gathered in exile in the Mancroft rooms in Norwich.  Madeline Light was in the Holy land, so the service was taken by David Hares, who carefully related the temptations of Jesus to those we all face.  The congregation has been growing whilst St Stephen’s is repaired.  There was a welcoming sense of unity in diversity, a community keeping the traditional rites and supporting one another and reaching out to the unchurched.
  12. At the Quaker studies centre, Woodbrooke, Birmingham for “Quaker Committee for Christian and Inter-Faith Relations”.  Not nearly as silent as A&E!


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